from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Myron L.
defendant appeals his conviction for first-degree murder and
Alfredo G. Parrish of Parrish, Kruidenier, Dunn, Boles,
Gribble, Gentry, Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines,
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
Keasling, convicted of murder in the first degree and
burglary in the first degree, asserts his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to object to the felony-murder
instruction, failing to seek an eyewitness-identification
instruction, and failing to obtain an eyewitness expert.
Further, Keasling asserts the district court erred in
excluding a witness from testifying at trial, or in the
alternative, trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
timely disclose the witness. For the reasons stated herein,
we affirm his conviction.
Background Facts and Proceedings
Teeter was murdered on August 11, 2014, at the same location
where he lived and worked, the Main Street Bait Shop in
downtown Eldon. The bait shop was in the front of the
building, and Teeter's residence was in the back. Teeter
had been ill and undergoing dialysis a few days a week, and
he had been prescribed hydrocodone for chronic pain.
days prior to his death, Teeter's friend, Peter Saner,
stopped by the bait shop in the morning on his way to work to
wake up Teeter. Upon waking, Teeter discovered his cash
drawer was empty and his hydrocodone pills were missing.
Teeter reported the theft. Teeter remarked to Saner,
"the Keasling boy" had asked him for hydrocodone
but Teeter did not have any at the time. On August 10, Teeter
was awakened by someone pounding on his door at approximately
3:30 a.m. The pounding stopped once Teeter turned on his
August 11, Saner stopped by the bait shop just before 7:00
a.m.; he knocked on the door but received no answer. He
walked around the back of the shop and found a window open
and the air conditioning unit still running, but the unit was
laying on the floor. He could see Teeter lying on his couch.
Saner climbed through the window, observed Teeter's body,
and called 911. While waiting for the police to arrive, Brad
McClure drove by, and Saner handed him the keys to a skid
loader for a job Saner was working on.
found the living room to be in complete disarray with empty
bottles of hydrocodone. The doors of Teeter's two
vehicles were slightly ajar, and papers found inside were
disturbed. Police removed the pieces of siding next to the
window where the air conditioning unit had been located for
fingerprint analysis. The bullet removed from Teeter's
head and the shell casing found outside Teeter's window
were consistent with a .22 long-rifle bullet. Police
questioned Keasling, who denied taking any prescription
medications other than his own and who said Teeter once paid
one of Teeter's workers in hydrocodone pills instead of
money. Keasling also said he had been in the bait shop to buy
fishing supplies and had performed construction work for
Teeter, but he had never been in the back, residential
portion of the building.
witnesses provided pieces of information to the
investigators. Upon learning of Teeter's death, his
friend, Jim Knaak, told the police that Teeter said Keasling
had been offering to buy hydrocodone pills from Teeter.
William Hilliard spoke to police about his observations on
the night in question, as he was on a walk that evening on
the bike path near the bait shop. Hilliard had observed a
pickup truck hauling concrete construction equipment and had
memorized the license plate. Seth Yochum indicated he
observed Keasling drive his truck near the bait shop in the
early morning hours of August 10, park the truck, and walk in
the direction of the bait shop. Additional evidence linked
Keasling with a .22 pistol. Witnesses testified they heard
gunshots near the river approximately two weeks prior to
Teeter's death and observed a white pickup truck similar
to Keasling's work truck, which he used to haul concrete
equipment. When police investigated the location where
witnesses heard gunshots, they found six spent .22 pistol
executed a search warrant on Keasling's person and his
grandmother's house, where Keasling resided. They found
approximately fourteen hydrocodone pills on his person, some
stamped M366 and others stamped M357. Pills marked M366 were
later found at Teeter's bait shop. Fingerprint testing
and analysis revealed Keasling's fingerprints at the bait
shop. Specifically, Keasling's prints were found on two
pieces of aluminum siding next to the window where the air
conditioning unit had been located, one pill bottle next to
Teeter's television stand, one pill bottle from the
living room, and another pill bottle from behind the counter
of the bait shop. Additionally, Keasling's prints were
found on papers located inside Teeter's car and truck.
January 2, 2015, Keasling was charged with first-degree
murder, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and
707.2(1)(a) or (b) (2014), and first-degree burglary, in
violation of Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.3(1)(b) or (c).
Trial began May 10, 2016, and the jury returned guilty
verdicts on both counts. On June 10, 2016, Keasling filed a
motion for new trial and motion in arrest of judgment. The
motions were denied. Keasling was sentenced to life without
parole for first-degree murder and twenty-five years for
first-degree burglary, to run concurrently.
Standard of Review
review ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo.
State v. Ondayog, 722 N.W.2d 778, 783 (Iowa 2006).
To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel,
the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence:
(1) trial counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2)
prejudice resulted from this failure. State v. Lane,
743 N.W.2d 178, 183 (Iowa 2007) (citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984)). Claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel raised on direct appeal are
generally preserved for postconviction-relief proceedings for
the development of a sufficient record and to allow the
attorney an opportunity to defend his or her actions. See
State v. Allen, 348 N.W.2d 243, 248 (Iowa 1984).
However, where the record on appeal is sufficient to allow us
to determine that either prong of an ineffective assistance
claim is lacking, we may decline to preserve the issue and
may instead address the claim on direct appeal. State v.
Brown, 656 N.W.2d 355, 364 (Iowa 2003).
review the record to determine if the court abused its
discretion in excluding a witness as a sanction for failure
to comply with the disclosure of a witness. State v.
Babers, 514 N.W.2d 79, 82 (Iowa 1994). The sanctions are
discretionary and will be reversed only if the trial court
abuses its discretion. Id. An abuse of discretion
will not generally be found unless the party whose rights
have been violated suffered prejudice. Id.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
district court instructed the jury it could convict Keasling
of first-degree murder if it found either he acted willfully,
deliberately, premeditatedly, and with the specific intent to
kill Darrel Teeter or he killed Teeter while participating in
the crime of first-degree burglary. See Iowa Code
§§ 707.2(1)(a) (premeditated killing), 707.2(1)(b)
(killing while participating in a forcible felony), 702.11
(providing "[a] 'forcible felony' is any
felonious child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse,
kidnapping, robbery, arson in the first degree, or burglary
in the first degree").
claims his trial counsel should have objected to instructing
the jury on the felony-murder alternative because the
evidence at trial established only a single act caused injury
to Teeter, which also caused his death. Because first-degree
burglary may be committed when a person inflicts bodily
injury on any person, Keasling asserts the act of shooting
Teeter was the same act as contained in the predicate felony.
See Iowa Code § 713.3. To support his argument,
Keasling relies on the following cases: State v.
Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d 549, 557 (Iowa 2006) (holding
felonious assault of willful injury could serve as the
predicate offense for felony murder only in certain
circumstances); Goosman v. State, 764 N.W.2d 539,
514 (Iowa 2009) (holding federal due process did not require
retroactive application of Heemstra); State v.
Millbrook, 788 N.W.2d 647, 650 (Iowa 2010) (finding the
defendant committed an assaultive act sufficiently
independent of the firing of the gun that resulted in the
victim's death); and State v. Tribble, 790
N.W.2d 121, 129-30 (Iowa 2010) (upholding the conviction
because substantial evidence supported a jury finding that
head trauma and asphyxia were caused by separate acts).
court has dealt with the issue of merger in the context of